Remembering New York City Journalist Pete Hamill

We are saddened by the loss of one of New York City’s singular talents, the great Pete Hamill, whose words we were privileged to share in an exhibition catalog for Beyond Ground Zero: 9/11 and the American Landscape, Photographs by Jonathan C. Hyman, produced in conjunction with the fifth anniversary of 9/11 in 2006. Hamill captured, in his own remarkable way, the juncture of grief, compassion, empathy, patriotism, and community that so distinguished the days and weeks after the terrorist attacks. He will be greatly missed, but how fortunate we all were to have heard his voice.

We are pleased to share an excerpt from Hamill's contribution to the exhibition catalog.

In New York City, on the days that followed the calamity, almost everybody gathered themselves and went back to work. They refused to run. The tunnels were not filled with refugees heading for North Dakota. New Yorkers stayed. They volunteered to help the process of recovery. They lined up by the thousands to give blood (which was not needed, because almost everybody was dead). They stood on street corners and cheered the passing fire engines and other rescue vehicles. Thousands of them assembled in Union Square, which faces south to where the Twin Towers once stood, and they created improvised altars, ablaze with candles, and held posters full of sorrow and anger. Under the trees, a saxophone player gave them the perfect sound track: a blues. [...] 

And here, too, among the New Yorkers, were the other Americans. They drove all night from New Orleans to open soup kitchens for the workers at the smoldering site of carnage. They came in from upstate New York and from the surrounding states; during those weeks, I met volunteers from Indiana and Alabama and Colorado. They offered help, and solace, and gumbo too. For the first time in many years, New York began to feel like an American city, instead of a separate place. The flag you saw everywhere was the flag of New York too.

By 9/11 Memorial Staff

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